Lifeblood Battles: George Pace

Poor Wayfaring Man

As noted in a previous post, Church leaders¬†often struggle to control how the lifeblood of the Church (i.e., personal reassurance that one is on the path to salvation in the Celestial Kingdom–a concept I’ve termed “Hope”) is distributed to, and apportioned among, the members of the Church. Below is an example of one such battle.

In the early 1980’s, a BYU professor named George Pace had previously given speeches and written a book promoting the idea that people should “center their lives on Christ and…develop their own personal relationship with Him.” Even though Pace was simply echoing ideas recently taught in General Conference by then-apostle (and future First Presidency Counselor) James E. Faust, his “taking out the middle man” approach to interacting with the Savior prompted a humiliating public rebuke from Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, which included the following counsel:

The proper course for all of us is to stay in the mainstream of the Church. This is the Lord’s Church, and it is led by the spirit of inspiration, and the practice of the Church constitutes the interpretation of the scripture.

And you have never heard one of the First Presidency or the Twelve, who hold the keys of the kingdom, and who are appointed to see that we are not “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14)–you have never heard one of them advocate this excessive zeal that calls for gaining a so-called special and personal relationship with Christ.

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I wonder if it is not part of Lucifer’s system to make people feel they are special friends of Jesus when in fact they are not following the normal and usual pattern of worship found in the true Church.

Our Relationship with the Lord, BYU Devotional speech, delivered March 1, 1982

George Pace’s idea had (inadvertantly or not) removed the Church and those leaders “who hold the keys of the kingdom” from their position as mediators between Church members and the Savior, and in doing so, had given Church members a means of independently obtaining Hope, through their personal connection with Jesus Christ. Elder McConkie put Pace, and the rest of his Lucifer-inspired (possibly unintentional) populists in their place. In McConkie’s view, only the prophets and apostles have the right to a special or personal relationship with Christ. Only the prophets and apostles have the power to prescribe the proper way for mankind to approach God and obtain salvation.¬† Hope is managed and apportioned through them.

After McConkie’s rebuke, Pace apologized for his impertinence:

I mean to stay in the mainstream of the Church, urging any with whom I have influence to listen to the words of our leaders, to pray earnestly for guidance, and to grow spiritually in our capacity to be obedient to the will and mind of God for us, giving full and appropriate reverence to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

-PWM

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3 Responses to “Lifeblood Battles: George Pace”

  • Nathan C. Says:

    When I was a freshman at BYU, I took a Book of Mormon class taught by George Pace. I thought he was a very kind, sincere, humble man. When McConkie publicly rebuked him, I think it was like the proverbial swatting of a fly with a sledge hammer. I have little doubt that Pace would have issued the same public “recantation” if he had been privately and discreetly contacted. But, the “smackdown” McConkie gave him was only partially for Pace, with it also being a lesson to others not to challenge the institutional authority of the LDS church.

    That authority is very important to the LDS hierarchy. As Dallin H. Oaks said, “My duty as a member of the Council of the Twelve is to protect what is most unique about the LDS church, namely the authority of priesthood, testimony regarding the restoration of the gospel, and the divine mission of the Savior. Everything may be sacrificed in order to maintain the integrity of those essential facts.” (http://www.mormonwiki.org/Dallin_H._Oaks)

    I think Oaks realizes that the LDS claim to divine authority is really the only thing that substantively separates the LDS church from other christian churches, not counting some of the finer points of doctrine that according to Gordon B. Hinckley, “we don’t know very much about.” (San Francisco Chronicle, April 13, 1997, p 3/Z1)

    An interesting idea that many Protestant churches believe is the idea that when Jesus was crucified, when “the veil of the temple was rent in twain”, (Matthew 27:51) that it meant that God removed all institutional barriers between Himself and humanity. So, according to Protestant thought, it’s not so much a question of “who” has divine authority, as it is that divine authority is not even necessary anymore. (http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Who_tore_the_Temple_curtain_when_Jesus_died )

  • Bill J. Says:

    I have not read G. Pace’s controversial book, but I know the scriptures teach being “born again” is a very intense life changing experience. It is precisely this enduring intensity which informs the dramatic life-long change which committed Christians are known for. Many such Christians report not only that their love for Christ has reached a new level – but also describe a new “oneness” with Christ. This feeling of unity often provides incredible motivation for positive change in one’s life, even leading in many cases to a state of sanctification.

    So I am not sure where all this leaves Bro. Pace and his convictions. Nor can I fathom why McKonkie evidently perceived a threat to LDS in Pace’s writings. For me, however, gaining a personal love relationship with Christ was very hard-won and came about at a high price. So I can only encourage similar-minded LDS’s to think long and hard before allowing others – even a general authority – to undermine their own unique and personal experiences vis-a-vis the Savior.

  • Rob Says:

    I never knew about this incident. I understand that people say stupid things. But McConkie said so many anti-Christ things. He was out of control throwing out rebukes for people following Christ. I wonder if anyone else in the leadership ever tried to boot him.

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